"Sweetheart? Sweetheart you don't need to do this!"
In response I hear only the ominous whir of a band-saw.
"We can talk about this!!"
Sweethea-- auuughh!" I feel a sharp stabbing in in my side.
Though it feels like I've just been stabbed, I grimace and very carefully put the frame full of bees I'm holding back into the beehive. Once it's safely out of my hands I quickly scrape the stinger out of my side. The bee is still buzzing angrily about, though I can see the rupture in the end of her abdomen where she lost the stinger. As I flick the stinger to the ground, in my head I say to her "I think that was relatively unnecessary dear." She tries to sting me again, but I ignore her. "Yeah good luck with that pumpkins.'
"Ah there you are Vindaloo! Everything is going well I see!" I am excited to find "Queen Vindaloo," with her distinctive slightly-burgundy colored back, on the second frame I've pulled out of the brood box of hive # 378 (nicknamed "Vindolanda"). It's like seeing an old friend I've been waiting all week to catch up with, and I'm very glad to see she's doing well, with many eggs in the frames I've looked at so far.
When I'd met her a week before, on the last day of 2012, she was going for a walk in the grass near the hives. This is highly bizarre, because queen bees DON'T leave the hive except for a few mating flights in the first few days of their life, or with a swarm of bees to start a new colony.
It had been a very bizarre day as well. Earlier I had found a hive with two queens co-existing in it, and just a few boxes later I'd find a bee with a bright red back, a very rare genetic mutation:
Now I don't by any means name every queen bee, but every now and then it makes life more interesting to give one a name and follow up on her. I'd long since run through all the bee puns I could think of (Beeopatra, Stingerella, etc), so Vindaloo was kind of randomly pulled out of the air. My hypothesis is she was a virgin queen out on a mating flight, caught in the recent rain squall that had just passed through and thus grounded.
So I temporarily put her in an empty powdered gatorade container and set about finding her a home.
I found one hive that was a possibility. It clearly had been queenless, and had a bunch of queen cells lined up like missile silos preparing to launch their contents. Several queen cells already had the door thrown open (or at least a hole chewed in the end), implicating recently released queens (of which Vindaloo might be one?), and then I found a queen bee in the act of being attacked by worker bees. They do that sometimes if they think they have a queen already. Well okay, this hive is a bit of the wild west I see. Nevertheless I decided to try to introduce Vindaloo into this anarchy and see what happened.
I placed her onto one of the frames. She looked around and took a few cautious steps ... and then a worker bee started quite rudely pulling on her leg.
"Hey! Don't be a jerk!" I said to her in my head, with perhaps a real life glare. "Come on Vindaloo we'll find you somewhere nicer." I push her assailant away and put my finger in front of her, she climbs aboard.
I found another much more suitable hive, with all the signs of queenlessness, some hatched queen cells, and none of the brawling "we're-in-the-middle-of-a-shoot-out" behavior of the anarchy hive.
"Here you go, how's this one Vindy?" She cautiously took a few steps on the frame. A worker bee approached her and she cautiously backed away, but another worker came from he other side ... and started grooming her. When last I saw her she disappeared between two frames with three workers being very sweet to her. Now I just had to wait, since its best to not go through a hive in the week after a queen has been introduced so that they can get settled.
It had been Christmas week. One of the hottest weeks of the year, and a particularly lonely time out in the fields. Even if I don't work directly with anyone, usually there's been people coming and going and working in the fields, but Christmas week no one was out there. Not out of any sentimentality for everyone's favorite mid-winter celebration that had been strangely transplanted here, but because all the crops had been harvested and new ones not planted yet. So no one was in the fields, and when I was in what passes for town around here, all the shops WERE closed for the holidays. And I'd drive past the plastic snowmen and reindeer in front of houses filled with relatives gathered for the holidays, and feel weirdly disconnected, since with no relatives here and weather I don't associate with Christmas, it felt like just another day to me.
So it was just me and the bees out there. And I found myself talking to them more and more. Usually not out loud, that makes me feel a bit too crazy, though I'd often greet them in the morning with a vocalized "good morning bees!" And in my head I'd thank them for being patient with me when they were well behaved as I took apart their home and examined it "room by room," or I'd chastise them for being rude or saucy if they were a bit over-enthusiastic about stinging.
"Old Greg" whom I used to have the misfortune of working with, used to gleefully exclaim to the bees things like "How do you like THAT bitches?" and "this will give you something to think about bitches!!" but that seems a bit rude to me. In my head, any bee, even if its in the very act of stinging me, is a sweetheart or a dear (though perhaps a bit impertinent) -- I try to avoid "honey" because that would just be cheesy, but sometimes it slips in.
This week it looks like there'll be no talking to bees or anyone else for me though. "Ex-cyclone (tropical storm) Oswald" is paying a visit. It's not even 10am and we've gotten 4 inches of rain today, the main road into town is out and its not even worth looking at the narrow roads among the fields much less the mud tracks within them. As I look out my window it looks to be coming down sideways. Hope the bees are doing alright.
Too Much Time With the Bees
"Sweetheart? Sweetheart you don't need to do this!"